All public money spent on the cancelled Garden Bridge project will be accounted for by the Garden Bridge Trust as it closes down, according to its chairman Lord Mervyn Davis.
Yesterday (Monday) the Garden Bridge Trust announced it had cancelled the £200M scheme, blaming a lack of commitment from London mayor Sadiq Khan. In April Khan scrapped the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) backing for the Garden Bridge after a report by Dame Margaret Hodge’s advised the project be stopped as it was “poor value for money”.
In a letter to Sadiq Khan, chair of the Garden Bridge Trust Lord Mervyn Davies stressed that the public money would be accounted for.
“On the subject of where the money has gone, we will, of course, account for every line of expenditure as part of the winding up operation,” he wrote.
Davies added that the trust had attempted to find a way forward given the “tens of thousands of hours of effort by the design and construction team”.
In 2015 a joint venture of Bouygyes and Cimolai was appointed to build the bridge, designed by architect Heatherwick Studio, before enabling works were suspended in July 2016 due to funding concerns. Consultant Arup had been undertaking the detailed design; a spokesperson for the company said it had already been paid for the work and so would not be looking for compensation.
“The Garden Bridge would have been a unique place: a beautiful contribution to a green city, free to use and open to all. It would have brought significant transport, business and community benefits, already evident in the offers of funds made by individuals, trusts and companies across the UK as well as in our partnerships with community organisations,” wrote Davies.
“It would have been a showcase for the best of British talent, sending a message to the world that London and the UK still lead the way in creativity, ambition and innovation - and, of course, that London is open. Regrettably, declining to lend your sufficient support to the many others already aboard for this landmark project sends a quite different message.”
Meanwhile Heatherwick Studio founder Thomas Heatherwick said he still has hope that the Garden Bridge will be built one day.
“Everyone on the GBT board gave their time and hearts unpaid to give London a free new garden and important public artery, and so many donors gave money without looking for anything back other than doing something good for London,” said Heatherwick.
“Our cities need optimistic amazing people like this. And London needs new bridges and unexpected new public places.
“The Garden Bridge has not found its right moment, but I hope one day it will and that London continues to be open to ideas that make life here better.”
However, Aecom managing director for highways and bridges end market Paul McCormick said the “whimsical infrastructure project” should have been stopped sooner.
“Whilst to some it may seem disappointing to see the project halted, it is a shame that it wasn’t stopped before £46M of public money was spent on this whimsical infrastructure project,” he said.
“Questions need to be asked how such a vast sum could have been frittered away so quickly without an effective rate of return on the investment or controls put in place.”
In May New Civil Engineer revealed that £346,500 has been spent on enabling works at Temple station, which would have needed its roof strengthened to support the bridge. Although no construction was carried out, surveying work had begun.